Our Bodies, Our Rules: What Do Reproductive Rights Mean to College Women Today?

When Donald Trump won the presidential election last November, many feared for the fate of reproductive rights. Women rushed to get IUDs before inauguration day. Planned Parenthood received an unprecedented amount of donations, vowing to keep fighting despite the grim outlook.

But while millions of women around the world came together at women’s marches the day after Trump’s inauguration, tens of thousands turned out the following weekend at the March For Life in D.C. Many were more excited than ever that an unabashedly pro-life president was in the White House.

The point is, women are not a monolith—not even when it comes to our own bodies. So we set out to discover what college women really think about reproductive rights, in their own words. More than 2,000 college women and recent grads took our survey that ran at the end of January, providing a wealth of data. But we didn’t just want hard numbers. Life, especially when it comes to health, sex and family, is so much more complicated than that. So we also followed up with more than 30 women whose stories and opinions illustrate the very human impact of reproductive rights legislation.

College women want access. They want birth control to be easier and cheaper to get, and they’re overwhelmingly pro-choice. But they may not have always felt that way. College is a time when many women change their minds about these issues—especially once they meet a wider variety of people, learn more about reproductive rights, and maybe become sexually active themselves. Even if they personally don’t think they would get an abortion, they want other women to have the option.

But views get harder to untangle when it comes to how involved the government should be in women’s reproductive rights, especially abortion. While many women feel in their hearts that there should be a limit on abortion, they’re unsure how to go about setting those boundaries without involving politicians or harshly punishing women.

Under a new administration that has already proven itself hostile to women’s bodily autonomy, many college women may be forced for the first time to confront their own complicated views on reproductive rights. We hope this project will be a thought-provoking start to figuring out how to proceed in the fight for women’s rights over the next four years and beyond.

Check out the full project here.

About The Author

Katherine Mirani is the News Editor for Her Campus. She graduated from Northwestern University's journalism school in 2015. Before joining Her Campus full time, she worked on investigative stories for Medill Watchdog and the Scripps News Washington Bureau. When not obsessing over journalism, Katherine enjoys pasta, ridiculous action movies, #longreads, and her cockatiel, Oreo.

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